Oil, gas officials discuss safety

CADIZ – The panel of oil and gas representatives met for its monthly shale safety meeting held Monday at the Puskarich Library in Cadiz.

Harrison County Commissioner Dale Norris said that he appreciated the movement the county has seen on the road issues he illustrated at the last meeting.

“Talks are ongoing, repairs are underway and we have several companies in discussion who will be working together to repair roads where they share RUMAs on that section of road.”

Sheriff Ronald J. Myers introduced members of the ODOT Special Hauling Permit Section who were on hand to explain the permitting procedure for over sized and super loads.

“Some of the hauling permits that come through the county and some of the roads that are being permitted on are not the best roads, I believe that the county manager should be involved,” Myers questioned the process citing situations where property and guard rails on 646 had been damaged by oversized loads in transport and cases on 519 where loads had bellied out while attempting to cross an intersection in New Athens and on 250 near Harrisville.

Jeff G. Honefanger, manager of ODOTs Special Hauling Permits Section, addressed the issue of the New Athens incidents, “There is a plant that builds large tanks there are too tall, so there are bridge issues on 7 and 22, ODOT can not go back to a manufacturer and tell them, you built it, sorry you can not move it.”

“Companies are supposed to look at that route prior to hauling, that is their responsibility,” Honefanger, explained.

Myers said that with the cost of fuel it may not be feasible for companies form out of state to drive the route prior to the trip. In that case they can drive an escort vehicle and the driver could ride along and inspect the route.” Honefanger replied.

“We do not have expertise in the capabilities of the vehicles,” said Michael Moreland, ODOT permits supervisor. “It is up to the driver of that vehicle to be able to maneuver without adversely impacting roadways, roadway usage of a motorist in their vehicle.”

“If they are not in compliance that is when we turn to our friends in the Highway patrol and local enforcement.” There is an expectation, these vehicles are bigger than what is legally allowed and we have an expectation of them doing their job and doing it seriously.”

“We get data from the district offices regarding geometrics, construction, so sending them out to a county manager is not necessarily going to give us any different results,” said Honefanger. “The district has already supplied us with all the information. We just can not determine every vehicle. We try and get that information but sometimes they don’t give us that information. We are going by the information which is supplied to us.”

Another question on these oversized loads are coming with a full escort they are pushing people off into the ditch,” Sheriff Myers. “I think that is another important part of the permitting process. I know this all hit us by storm. We don’t have wide roads and we don’t have that luxury, but we can’t have people running off into the ditches for these wide loads forcing them off when they are being escorted.”

“I have told people calling in, ‘Go to the fog line and stop if you have to and if they hit you, they hit you,'” Myers said. “They don’t like to hear that because they are trying to avoid an accident.”

“Depending on the roadway, generally speaking a permitted load can not exceed 55 mph period,” added Honefanger. “We get into structural issues where the maximum speed limit over a bridge is 40 mph and we can have further reductions based on moving that vehicle onto a structure.”

“The troopers are assigned to do traffic control,” Honefanger replied. “The idea is that, that vehicle is presenting something significantly unique which requires law enforcement to be present to do traffic control.”

“We need to know when a carrier is not doing what we are expecting them to do,” Honefanger stated. “If they do not comply we can stop issuing permits to that company.”

“We issued 1,315 permits for our office last Friday,” said Honefanger. “We do not have the personnel to go out and measure every permit application or vehicle that submitted a permit application, we hold to the company, we hold to their integrity that they give us correct information. That is what we base our decision on.”

“Your local deputies or other local law enforcement have the authority to stop these loads and check their permit,” Honefanger added. ” A lot of it, I hate to say, falls right back on the haulers.”

When asked about using Industrial Park Road as a bypass for loads which go through downtown Cadiz Honefanger explained that it is not under their jurisdiction, “Our jurisdiction ends on the state highway If we have no authority, if that does not have a US number or state route number to it we cannot issue a permit for it.”

“There are height restrictions on 22 with the bridges which require we route certain traffic through town,” said Moreland. “Permitee is responsible to check the route for abnormal change, unknown or unusual conditions which may exist during any move.”

State Sen. Lou Gentile also spoke to the gathering at the shale safety meeting. “I think it is timely that you are talking about infrastructure and roads,”

“I want to point out and give you an update, we were able to include an amendment in the transportation budget regarding the oil and gas infrastructure task force and part of the reason that I feel it was important to have that included was through the concerns regarding the long term traffic plans for the infrastructure in our area,”

“Certainly in Harrison County, we can take a look at what is happening at MarkWest and at the plant in Scio, with route 151 and 22, there is a lot of concern going forward about how we are going to handle the volume of activity that is coming through.”

“Sen. Balderson and I worked together and got this language in the transportation budget which lays out a task force comprised of industry, local officials, regional representatives from the oil and gas counties to come up with some recommendations on what the needs are going to be and providing adequate infrastructure.”

“We had a meeting here last week with OMEGA and one question still on peoples minds in the Severance Tax,” Gentile said moving ahead that the issue has been tabled in the Senate for the time being. “One of the issues I have been making is that our part of the state, we are going to be contributing a lot more tin terms of income tax, in terms of motor fuel tax, in terms of sales tax ,” Gentile continued. “I think it fair for us to ask that if there is additional revenue going to be generated how can we keep that here in our region.”

There has been discussion from as far back as I can remember about the need to expand the corridor from Pittsburgh to Columbus,” Obviously we did not have the need or the revenue to pursue that in the past, but now I feel we have the situation which dictates that we discuss that option.”

“We are drafting legislation on what I refer to as the oil and gas reinvestment act, how are we going to be able to stream some of that money back from the state into our area.”

“As land owners and property owners are receiving lease payments and bonus payments. How can we, instead of send 100 percent of that money to the state of Ohio, how can we capture some of that?”

“Region wide I get letters expressing that we need tog et our fair share.” He commended the Harrison County commissioners for their proposal to the state for consideration on the severance tax issue in the budget.

Gentile added there is great need to also have a conversation about clean drinking water for a lot of our state communities,

Eric Mize, EP/PA Manager for Momentum in Scio stated that he agreed that with all of the revenue being generated by the industry, some of that money should go back to the local communities for infrastructure improvements, considering the inability to drink the water in the village of Scio.

Gentile said that it is a much broader issue and that he has a bill which would aid local communities in financing who need access to clean drinking water, Gentile said that many legislators are shocked to hear that there are many communities in Ohio that still do not have access to water.

Mark Kowalski, director of Operations for the Harrison Hills School District, brought a schedule of the bus routes for the 2103-2014 school year to hand out to contractors and township trustees.

Kowalski said that the bus routes run 12 hours each day beginning at 7:30 a.m. with 17 regular routes and two handicap routes for the district.

Chevron is keeping the electronic message signs in place on US 250 despite a delay in the delivery of the new drilling rig which should be on site with two weeks according to Bill Kolovitch.

County road superintendent Jim Albright had several issues to discuss with the panel. Tim Kinney of Hess told Albright a sign issue at the intersection of CR 12 and 13 with Hess vehicles would be remedies soon. Albright and County Engineer Rob Sterling reported that a “good bit” of progress had been made on area road repairs. Chesapeake is meeting with other RUMA holders on CR 12 and 45, Gulfport is working on CR 61 and Atlas is doing daily base repairs to Cr 25 and 43.

Sterling told the group that the county had applied for grant monies to conduct speed surveys on several county roads. Unless the speed limit has been journalized at a lower limit all county and township roads are 55 mph, Once the speed surveys are complete the state can lower the speed limits and then the sheriff can enforce the lower speeds. Sheriff Myers also told the group that there had been complaints on trucks speeding through New Rumley. “Please address your vendors and remind them that there are children playing in town and we are going to be enforcing that zone.” They also reminded everyone that the bridge is out on CR 51, no RUMAs are effected by the closure.

Ann Kuzmich, Statewide Shale coordinator fro ODOT asked if there was any system in place within the county to track overlapping RUMAs. Sterling said that the county’s policy was to let the companies work out the split on repairs and maintenance among themselves.

Doug Crabtree replied that the County Engineers Office had a system to track RUMAs by road and will be working with MRT to try and make the system available online in the future. For now the companies or residents can call the Engineer’s office with inquiries.

Chris Wood, Harrison County Manager ODOT District 11 reminded the representatives that ODOT updates their work schedule every Friday on their Facebook page. Albright added that information on the county road projects can be obtained by calling the county garage.

Patrolman Shawn Yoho introduced Lt. Joseph Fetty commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Steubenville post said the investigation on the fatality on US 250 left of center head on crash was ongoing. He stated that his post had complaints about traffic on 800 and 151 including out of state truck plates and asked companies to remind employees be cautious of other drivers and obey the speed limits.

Lt. Fetty also said that the Patrol always measures and inspects the loads they escort before beginning the trip.

Jerry Males of Mark West they will be striping Industrial Park Road this Thursday and begin sealing on the road after Labor Day.

Palmer may be reached at mpalmer@timesleaderonline.com.